Pre-pandemic tourism has transformed into something distinct in the post-global health crisis era, according to Saudi Investment Minister Eng. Khalid Al-Falih.
The minister emphasized the crucial need to incorporate sustainability into tourism plans to mitigate potential shocks that the tourism sector may encounter, as was witnessed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Al-Falih’s remarks came during the final day of World Tourism Day (WTD) events held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
"We aspire to connect our investments related to future capabilities, smart cities, and sustainable transportation with travel and tourism,” said Al-Falih.
“This is aimed at providing the utmost comfort for tourists while enhancing their role in environmental protection and preservation,” he explained.
Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and a Member of the Board of the Saudi Tourism Authority, announced on the second day of WTD festivities that the Kingdom is currently experiencing a rapid phase of growth and development, particularly in its tourism sector.
He noted that the Kingdom had already welcomed over 17 million tourists in the first seven months of 2023.
“We anticipate surpassing this figure in the latter half of the year,” asserted Hamidaddin.
Zurab Pololikashvili, the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), regarded Saudi Arabia as a new contender in the global tourism sector, following its successful organization of the WTD.
Pololikashvili, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the WTD, pointed out that the Saudi tourism sector had managed to attract over 50 ministers, officials, and visitors from more than 120 countries, who will serve as ambassadors for the Kingdom in their respective nations.
He also noted that the ongoing developments in Europe due to the fallout from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and economic slowdown in China are bolstering tourism in Asia.
Pololikashvili also emphasized the significance of the Middle East region and its tourism sector at this opportune moment.
Regarding the success of Saudi Arabia in enhancing the tourist image, Pololikashvili observed a significant difference between the Saudi tourism sector’s current state and what it was two years ago.
This difference is notable in terms of visa acquisition speed, reception methods, diverse destinations, and various activities.
This is reflected in the attendance at the WTD, which drew participants from over 20 nationalities.
As for the challenges facing the sector, Pololikashvili pointed out the distinction between “welcome” and “come again.”
While easy visa acquisition and the availability of appealing destinations might attract some visitors initially, a warm reception, genuine hospitality, and attention to human interaction will undoubtedly entice tourists to return.